By now, most of us have surely seen the fiery crash of Romain Grosjean over at the Bahrain GP. If this were to happen a couple of decades back, it could have resulted in a very different outcome. With that being said, what exactly helped Grosjean escape this mess and survive this incident? Here are five factors that we think had massively contributed into Grosjean’s fiery escape at the Bahrain GP.
If you are new to F1 or motorsports in general, you might be weirded by the presence of a Mercedes estate car standing by at the back of the grid on the race start. And what makes it weirder is that the car will continue following the pack on the opening lap of the race, before coming into the pits at the end of the first lap.
What you are seeing right there is actually the Medical Car and it is now a common sight even outside F1. Their role is to generally be on standby on the opening lap as usually things tend to get a bit heated on race start which might lead to a crash. With the Medical Car trailing the first lap, they could reach the affected drivers faster than any other personnel could.
In Grosjean’s case, the Medical Car was on the scene almost immediately, ready to provide first aid or any medical care that was necessary. But they were not the only ones who got to Grosjean at the nick of time as the Marshalls of Bahrain Circuit also reacted immediately and accordingly, reaching the blaze with fire extinguishers in hand.
Working hand in hand, they managed to get Grosjean out of the wreckage immediately with just minor burns to the hands and feet.
Formula 1 is one of the fastest sport on planet Earth. At the speeds that they are running, something strong and sturdy is definitely needed to protect the drivers in the event of a high speed crash, and at the same time being light enough so that it does not bog down the car.
The survival cell is something that has been implemented since the 1980s and it plays a pivotal role in F1 safety. Made out of strong, lightweight materials like carbon fiber and Kevlar, the cell is basically a “safety capsule” that protects the drivers and could withstand massive amount of forces.
Although Grosjean’s crash saw the Haas split in half, it was designed to do so in an event of a huge crash to dissipate the energy. Even so, the survival cell remained intact and kept him safe, just like it was intended to be.
The FIA does not rest in providing a safer environment in motorsports. Aside from coming up with strict guidelines to make a car safer, they have also done the same on the racing driver’s attire.
Unlike the drivers in the 1950’s where they barely have any protective clothing around, drivers nowadays are wrapped in multiple layers of Nomex fireproof clothing. From the socks, balaclava, underwear, and full overalls, these garments must be capable of handling temperatures up to 800 degrees Celcius, and at the same time limiting the inside temperature to 41 Celcius!
However, fireproofing is not the only priority that they focus on as the helmet is also continuously updated to meet the current standards. And not to forget, the HANS device is also in place since 2003 to reduce the likelihood of any head or neck injuries.
Before you go any further, yes, the safety barriers in Grosjean’s crash did deform in a worrying way where it had wedged the survival cell in between the beams. While some drivers like Sebastian Vettel believe that the Armco barrier should not have failed in such a manner, it did, however, absorbed most of the energy of the crash.
F1 cars are already designed to disintegrate upon impact to minimize driver injury, but the barrier can further disperse the energy of a high-speed impact so that damage is limited. In a high G crash, there is a possibility where a driver can lose consciousness, and even seconds in a situation like Grosjean’s can mean life or death.
Luckily for him, both the car and the barrier did its job, although we believe that the FIA will soon take a closer look on what can be improved on the Armco barriers.
When the Halo was first introduced, it was not the best looking thing around. It did garner some criticism even from names like Niki Lauda where he described it as an “overreaction”, and Martin Brundle calling it “plain ugly”.
As “plain ugly” as it is, there is no doubt that the Halo played an important role in saving Grosjean’s life in yesterday’s incident. Especially after looking back at the pictures, the Halo was the only thing that kept Grosjean’s head away from the barrier which could have made things worse.
It is incidents like these that serves as a stark reminder that motorsports is dangerous, and there are 1001 things that can go wrong. However, we applaud every single step taken by the FIA in making motor racing safer than before, and we wish Grosjean a speedy recovery as well.